Chapter 1, Scene 1
Revolving Point, Texas, Summer-1860
Missy Morgan closed her carpetbag and made a quick search of the dingy hotel room. She grabbed the last of her poker winnings hidden beneath the mattress and shoved the greenbacks in her skirt pocket. Anything else in the room belonged to the hotel, except the bottle of whiskey on the scratched bureau.
She picked up the bottle, saw a swallow remained and glanced toward the sun streaming in through the frayed curtain on the window. So it was early morning. She could use a drink to settle her nerves and get her through what promised to be a long, trying day traveling with someone other than Buck Grayson, her hired gun.
With a tilt of her head, the amber liquid slid past her tongue and burned a familiar path down her throat. Returning the bottle to the bureau, she sat on the bed and waited.
She was going home today, back to San Francisco where she belonged. In a few weeks, she'd see her daughter and second family--an odd assortment of people having nothing in common except the need to feel safe--and never have to leave again. After five summers of riding the trail with Buck, searching every saloon and brothel, she'd finally found her brother and sister.
Adam was dead. He'd been killed by their pa. Pa was dead, too. Good. The bastard deserved to die for trying to sell her and her sister to a Mexican landlord. But Paige was alive and on her way back to Colorado Territory with her husband, Royce Weston.
It'd be a long time before she saw her sister again. The distance between Colorado and San Francisco didn't make for many visits, but Paige had found someone to love and love her in return.
She'd never be as fortunate. Pa had seen to that, so had Doc and Harley. Their treachery left behind scars she couldn't heal.
A sharp rap at the door interrupted her thoughts.
"Missy, open up," Buck ordered and she hurried to let him in.
"Lucas is at the depot stowing his gear on top of the stage." He crossed the floor, pushed aside the curtain and peered down into the street. "Don't know why he's taking his horse. Shoulda sent the stallion home with his brother and Paige."
Missy smiled, amused by the tall, muscular man's fussing. Dressed in black, a scowl on his lips and ivory-handled pistols riding low on his hips, she'd miss the outlaw. He was more brother than protector. "Would you leave your horse behind?"
"Nope, but then I ain't stupid enough to take the stage." He reached into his vest pocket and extracted a small bottle. "Brought you something." He tossed it to her. "Figured you'd want a stiff drink tonight."
She smiled and reached for her bag. "If Lucas doesn't bring his horse to San Francisco, how's he supposed to get back home?"
"Not my problem." Buck looked back to the street.
"I wish you were coming with me instead of hiring out your gun. I don't know Lucas very well."
"He's a good man. He'll take care of you."
"I know he is."
"You don't know shit." He settled his dark gaze on her. "You've been holed up with him while his brother and me flushed out your pa and still you haven't told him about Tess or Lady Luck."
"Tess and Lady Luck are none of Lucas' business."
"No?" Buck lifted a brow. "He came here to help you. Now he's taking time away from his ranch to see you get home safe. The man has a right to know what that involves."
"Men as honest as him don't understand what it's like to be me."
"He already knows you deal stud and drink whiskey. Your having a daughter and owning a gaming parlor ain't gonna matter to him."
"Until he finds out Tess is illegitimate. Then he'll wonder how long it'll take to make me his mistress."
"Lucas won't fault you for not being able to fend off Harley."
Missy stared at him, open-mouthed. "You can't mean for me to tell him everything. You’re the one who taught me how to protect myself."
Buck shrugged and returned his attention back to the street. "Suit yourself. It's your own grave you're digging."
"How can you say that? Men always assume I'm another willing madam even though Lady Luck isn't a brothel." She fastened the strap on her carpetbag. "Lucas won't be an exception."
"Wrong. Shit, there's Taggert." He dropped the curtain. "Bastard won't dodge the bullet this time." He flung the door open and moved quick down the hall, saying. "Don't leave without me."
Missy spit her tongue at him then slammed the door shut. "What does he know?" Cutthroats and gentlemen, they were all the same.
She'd never forget the night she met Lucas. Dealing stud in a saloon in his hometown, he mistook her for her sister and hauled her out of the chair. Black hair, sapphire eyes and dimple set in his chin; her heart fluttered at the sight of him. She'd had the same reaction when he arrived in Revolving Point last week.
Would he really snub her for having a daughter and owning Lady Luck, an old sea ship run aground, abandoned and then renovated into a notorious gaming hall on San Francisco's Barbary Coast? She liked to think he wouldn't, especially since he was known for his dalliances with the soiled doves. But past hurts had a way of staying with her. They kept her on the defense. And until he proved her wrong, she wouldn't be swayed by his pretty blue eyes or deep voice calling her Michelle, her given name.
Lady Luck can be purchased at www.amazon.com/author/julielence